Colonial American House Styles (2024)

The Pilgrims weren't the only people to settle in Colonial America. Between 1600 and 1800, men and women poured in from many parts of the world, including Germany, France, Spain, and Latin America. Families brought their own cultures, traditions, and architectural styles. New homes in the New World were as diverse as the incoming population.

When silversmith Paul Revere bought a fixer-upper in 1770, the Boston, Massachusetts, house was already 100 years old. Using locally available materials, America's colonists built what they could and tried to meet the challenges posed by the climate and landscape of the new country. They constructed the types of homes they remembered, but they also innovated and, at times, learned new building techniques from Native Americans. As the country grew, these early settlers developed not one, but many, uniquely American styles. Centuries later, builders borrowed ideas from early American architecture to create Colonial Revival and Neocolonial styles.

New England Colonial (1600s–1740)

Colonial American House Styles (1)

The first British settlers in New England built timber-frame dwellings similar to the ones they had known in their home country. Wood and rock were typical physical characteristics of New England. There's a medieval flavor to the enormous stone chimneys and diamond-pane windows found on many of these homes. In fact, they are often called Post-Medieval English. Because these structures were built with wood, only a few remain intact. Still, you'll find charming New England colonial features incorporated into modern-day Neocolonial homes.

German Colonial (1600s–mid-1800s)

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When Germans traveled to North America, they settled in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland. Stone was plentiful, and the German colonists constructed sturdy homes with thick walls, exposed timbering, and hand-hewn beams. The 1753 Jacob Keim farmstead in Oley, Pennsylvania, is typical of this vernacular colonial style. Made from local limestone, the original house also had a red clay tiled roof that was typical of the biberschwanz or "beaver tail" flat tile roofs of Bavaria in southern Germany.

Spanish Colonial (1600–1900)

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The term Spanish Colonial is often used to describe elegant stucco homes with fountains, courtyards, and elaborate carvings. But likely those picturesque houses are romantic Spanish colonial revivals. Early explorers from Spain, Mexico, and Latin America built rustic homes out of wood, adobe, crushed shells (coquina), or stone. Earth, thatch, or red clay tiles covered low, flat roofs. California and the American Southwest are also home to Pueblo Revival homes that combine Hispanic styling with Native American ideas.

Few original Spanish homes from thecolonial era remain, but wonderful examples have been preserved or restored in St. Augustine, Florida, site of the first permanent European settlement in America.The González–Alvarez House purports to be the city's oldest Spanish colonial home from the 1600s.

According to the National Park Service.

"The original home was a one-story rectangular-shaped stone dwelling with thick coquina walls that were plastered with lime and whitewashed. Covered by a hipped roof shingled with wood, the home’s two large rooms had tabby floors (a mixture of shells, lime, and sand) and large windows without glass."

After Spanish and English occupation and destruction, the current house was built during the 1700s.

Read MoreHouse Style Guide to the American HomeBy Jackie Craven

Dutch Colonial (1625–mid-1800s)

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Like the German colonists, Dutch settlers brought building traditions from their home country. Settling mainly in New York State, they built brick and stone houses with rooflines that echoed the architecture of the Netherlands. Dutch Colonial style is marked by the gambrel roof. Dutch Colonial became a popular revival style, and 20th-century homes often feature the characteristic rounded roof.

Cape Cod Houses (1690–mid-1800s)

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A Cape Cod house is a type of New England Colonial. Named after the peninsula where the Pilgrims first dropped anchor, Cape Cod houses are one-story structures designed to withstand the New World's cold and snow. The houses are as humble, unadorned, and practical as their occupants. Centuries later, builders embraced the practical, economical Cape Cod shape for budget housing in suburbs across the United States. Even today, this no-nonsense style suggests cozy comfort. Cape Cod-style houses may not all be from the colonial era, but the iconic design is part of the historic fabric of America.

Stone Ender Houses (1600s–1800s)

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Ultimately, early colonial homes in the United States were vernacular—that is, local, domestic, pragmatic architecture built with native construction materials. In the area now known as Rhode Island, limestone was a readily available building material. Colonists began building houses they had seen in western England with materials gathered at the Blackstone River in northern Rhode Island. This style of house became known as the Stone Ender, as only one end of the house was constructed of stone—a stone extension of a massive chimney.

Georgian Colonial (1690s–1830)

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The New World quickly became a melting pot. As the 13 original colonies prospered, more affluent families built refined homes that imitated the Georgian architecture of Great Britain. Named after English kings, a Georgian house is tall and rectangular with orderly row windows symmetrically arranged on the second story. During the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century, many Colonial Revival homes echoed the regal Georgian style.

French Colonial (1700s–1800s)

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While the English, Germans, and Dutch were building a new nation along the eastern shores of North America, French colonists settled in the Mississippi Valley, especially in Louisiana. French colonial homes are an eclectic mix, combining European ideas with practices learned from Africa, the Caribbean, and the West Indies. Designed for the hot, swampy region, traditional French Colonial homes are raised on piers. Wide, open porches (called galleries) connect the interior rooms.

Federal and Adam (1780–1840)

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Federalist architecture marks the end of the colonial era in the newly-formed United States. Americans wanted to build homes and government buildings that expressed the ideals of their new country and also conveyed elegance and prosperity. Borrowing Neoclassical ideas from a Scottish family of designers—the Adam brothers—prosperous landowners constructed fancier versions of the austere Georgian colonial style. These homes, which may be called Federal or Adam, were given porticoes, balustrades, fanlights, and other decorations.


Colonial American House Styles (2024)


What were the typical houses in Colonial America? ›

Similar to the homes colonists lived in back in England, they're rectangular, typically two stories, and fairly symmetrical. They have steep, side-gabled roofs, which means the triangular portion of the roof is only visible from the sides; looking at the front door, you only see shingles.

What style of houses are Colonial? ›

American Colonial homes are generally characterized by a square or rectangular facade, a central entrance and windows symmetrically placed on either side of the entrance. They are typically made of wood, stone or brick and will generally have uniformly sized doors and windows with shutters.

What did American houses look like in the 1700s? ›

Seventeenth century houses are generally asymmetrical; size and placement of windows and doors follow no pattern. Roofs are steep and without an overhang. The chimney is massive, sometimes with decorated brickwork.

What are the different Colonial architectural styles? ›

The styles that arose can be referred to as "Colonial architecture," which includes Georgian Colonial, Spanish Colonial, German Colonial, French Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Federal and Cape Cod.

What did early colonial houses look like? ›

These buildings typically included as steep roofs, small casem*nt leaded glass windows (usually due to a scarcity of glass in the colonies), rich ornamentation (in the more expensive house only) and a massive central chimney.

What did houses look like in the 13 colonies? ›

English settlers of the New England colonies built rustic and pragmatic homes with architectural elements borrowed from medieval England, like diamond pane windows and steep pitched roofs. Initially they framed their homes out of timber which eventually transitioned to brick, especially further south.

What is the popular design feature of Colonial homes? ›

Symmetrical Architecture

Symmetry is a defining characteristic feature of Colonial homes. The front door is always centered and bordered by an equal number of windows on either side of the door. The windows are traditionally multipaned, and the shutters are in contrasting colors.

What is Colonial farmhouse style? ›

Colonial-style homes are rectangular in shape and have gabled roofs, symmetrical windows, wood/brick/modern vinyl siding, a four-square layout, a central fireplace, and natural hardwood floors. These are all characteristics that make a home Colonial style.

What is colonial style interior design? ›

Layering different textures is at the heart of British colonial style. Dark timber floorboards are seen throughout the home with light weight Turkish or Persian rugs, animal hides or natural fibre seagrass and jute rugs. Accents of vibrant tropical, animal or floral prints are seen in soft furnishings.

Why do they call it a saltbox house? ›

Built during the 17th and 18th centuries, American saltbox houses were named after commonly used wooden salt containers from the colonial period. Historic saltbox houses are easily identified by their signature one-sided sloped rooflines and simple colonial facades.

What were houses like in 1776? ›

The roof was usually a thatched roof made from dried local grasses. The floors were often dirt floors and the windows were covered with paper. Inside the single room home was a fireplace used for cooking and to keep the house warm during the winter.

What did the southern colonies houses look like? ›

Southern Colonial style houses were prevalent from the 17th through the 19th centuries and were based on the Greek Revival style. These wood, brick, and stone homes usually feature light colors along with large windows and shutters to handle storms.

What are the 4 types of Colonial? ›

Colonialism is generally classified by one of five overlapping types according to the practice's particular goals and consequences on the subjugated territory and its indigenous peoples. These are settler colonialism; exploitation colonialism; plantation colonialism; surrogate colonialism; and internal colonialism.

What are the three types of Colonial? ›

Colonial Government - Three Types of Government

These three types of government were implemented in the colonies and a colony would be referred to as either a Royal Colony, a Charter Colony or a Proprietary Colony.

How do you identify colonial architecture? ›

The British incorporated many architectural styles into their colonial buildings. Symmetrical facades, chimney, shuttered windows, and columns/pilasters were common features that could be found in British colonial architecture.

What types of houses were built in the middle colonies? ›

In the Middle and Southern colonies, houses were more likely to be built out of stone or brick and in the Spanish borderlands, out of adobe, baked clay. During the eighteenth century, architecture and furniture in British North America increasingly mimicked popular English styles.

What were colonial houses called? ›

Colonial architecture is a broad-based, umbrella term including several architectural styles that reflect the multicultural influence of early settlers to the United States, such as saltbox-style homes, Georgian, Cape Cod, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Dutch Colonial, among others.

What features does a colonial house have? ›

Colonial-style homes are rectangular in shape and have gabled roofs, symmetrical windows, wood/brick/modern vinyl siding, a four-square layout, a central fireplace, and natural hardwood floors.

What were the styles of houses in the 1600s? ›

Colonial American house styles from the 1600s until the American Revolution include a wide range of architectural types, including New England Colonial, German Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Spanish Colonial, French Colonial, and, of course, the ever-popular Colonial Cape Cod.

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